Irish Language Blog

Pronunciation Guide for “25 Chulaith Oíche Shamhna” (25 Halloween Costumes, in Irish) Posted by on Oct 27, 2015 in Irish Language

 (le Róislín)

We recently looked at the Irish for 25 different types of cultacha Oíche Shamhna (nasc thíos), some fairly traidisiúnta (vaimpír, taibhse) and some fairly far-fetched (héilics dúbailte d’aigéad dí-ocsairibeanúicléasach).  This post will give some pronunciation tips for them.

But first, let’s look at the word “culaith” [KUL-uh OR KUL-ee] itself.  “The suit” is “an chulaith” [un KHUL-uh / KHUL-ee] and the plural is “cultacha.”   It means both “costume” and “suit,” so, remember, you can use this word for several types of suits, like:

culaith chait, a catsuit, although this could also mean “cat costume.”  In fact, it could mean both a “cat costume” for  a person to wear or a “cat costume” for a cat to wear (good luck with that, but they do sell them!).  I suppose the English is equally ambiguous, as far as the meaning of “cat costume” goes.

culaith chearáité, a karate suit

culaith mhionstríocach, a pinstriped suit, and

culaith shnámha OR culaith snámha, (I’ve seen both spellings), bathing suit/swimsuit

If the plural is “cultacha,” you might be wondering why the title didn’t use “cultacha” after “25.”  Remember the rule in Irish, nouns stay singular after the “bunuimhreacha,” so we say, “cúig chulaith is fiche,” (or “cúig chulaith” if you just have five, “fiche culaith” if you have twenty, etc.).  Same with boxes (dhá bhosca, no “-í” plural ending) or horses (céad capall, no inserted “-i-” to create the plural form) or any other general noun (except people, counting them being a horse of different color!).

And now, back to “cultacha Oíche Shamhna” and the ones mentioned in the last post.  You might remember that some examples were given with the “An bhfuil tú i do …” structure last time, which triggered lenition (b becoming bh, c becoming ch, etc.) for some of the examples.  Here I’ve reduced them to their basic form, without the “i do …” part.

  1. a) conriocht [kon-rikht], werewolf, lit. “hound-shape,” so the “were-” element of the English “werewolf” is completely gone. Where’d that “were-” come from anyway? Same place as in “wergild” (lit. “man-money,” i.e. historically, compensation to the family of an injured or killed person). “Wer(e)-” is a cousin of the Latin word “vir” (man) and, for that matter, also a cousin of the Irish word “fear” (man)
  2. b) taibhse [TYV-shuh], ghost (that’s “y” as in “my” or “try”)
  3. c) madra [MAH-druh], dog
  4. d) gúl [gool], you probably guessed it, a ghoul, and no, since there’s no “síneadh fada” (long mark) in the Star Trek term “Gul,” it’s not a lost Gul from the Cardassian Empire, unless that Gul were dressed up for Halloween, as a ghoul. Then we could say, “Tá an Gul sin ina ghúl anocht” or, if female (are there female Guls?), “Tá an Gul sin ina gúl.” Of course, a human could dress up as a Cardassian Gul dressed up as a ghoul, a sort of layered costume, and then I guess you could describe yourself as, “Tá mé i mo Ghul atá ina ghúl” or “Is Gul ina ghúl mé.”  If the speaker is female, and if female Guls do exist, then  “… atá ina gúl” or “Is Gul ina gúl mé.”  Anyway, next …
  5. e) creatlach [KRzhAT-lukh], skeleton
  6. f) bean feasa [ban FASS-uh], wise woman
  7. g) fiaghruagach [FEE-uh- ɣROO-uh-gukh, remember / ɣ / is the voiced velar fricative sound also found in “Mo ghrá thú” and “Dia dhuit, a Ghráinne“], warlock
  8. h) an Ghliúdóg Dhochreidte [un LyOO-dohg ɣO-HRzhedj-tchuh], the Incredible Hulk (not that I know of any official use of this translation. BTW, the “ghl” sound is a combination of a slender “gh,” usually pronounced like a “y” (an-gheal, an ghealach, srl.) and a slender “l” (as in “million”), so the first sound is a bit more like “YUH- Ly” with both parts said simultaneously–but that is a little eye-boggling in a rough guide to pronunciation.
  9. i) vaimpír [VAM-peerzh], vampire
  10. j) puimcín [PWIM-keen], pumpkin
  11. k) bláth [blaw], flower
  12. l) cailín bailé [KY-leen BALy-ay, ballerina, lit. ballet girl, even more lit. “girl of ballet”
  13. m) Earcail [ÆR-kil], Hercules
  14. n) Harry Potter, uh, no change, though some translations did change his name slightly (Harri Potter sa Bhreatnais, srl.)
  15. o) Freddy Krueger, ’nuff said
  16. p) ríomhaire [REEV-irzh-uh], computer. Remember, initial r’s are always broad, even if followed by “e” or “i”, not slender (slender as in the medial r’s of “Máire” or “tirim” or the final “r” of “tír” or “fir“)
  17. q) francach [FRAHNK-ukh], rat; culaith fhrancaigh [KUL-uh RAHNK-ee OR KUL-ee RAHNK-ee], rat costume. We can probably assume this would be a costume a human would wear to look like a rat (Was there a Ratatouille costume as a movie spin-off?), not a costume to put on a pet rat — but one never knows
  18. r) zombaí [ZOM-bee], zombie (naturally); culaith zombaí, no change to “zombaí” because “z” can’t take lenition
  19. s) buachaill bó [BOO-uh-khil boh], cowboy; culaith bhuachaill bó [KUL-uh WOO-ukh-il boh, with variations KUL-ee, VOO-ukh-il, etc.]
  20. t) an Sfioncs [un sfinks], as if you couldn’t guess, the Sphinx
  21. u) an Féinics [un FAYN-iks], the Phoenix, of which there’s only one at a time in the entire world, so anyone being “a Phoenix” for Halloween would essentially be “the Phoenix” as well
  22. v) an t-aonbheannach deireanach [un TAYN-van-ukh DjERzh-uh-nukh], the last unicorn, last by definition, at least per author Peter S. Beagle
  23. w) aonbheannach [AYN-van-ukh], unicorn
  24. x) daoránach i ngeimhle [DEER-AWN-ukh ing-EV-luh], a fettered convict, i.e. a convict with his/her feet chained. Recognize “daoránach“? It’s the opposite of “saoránach.”
  25. y) héilics dúbailte d’aigéad dí-ocsairibeanúicléasach [HAYL-iks DOO-bul-tchuh DÆG-yayd DJEE-OK-suh-RIB-uh-NOO-ih-KLAY-sukh], double helix of DNA

And if anyone has ever made a costume of DNA helix strands, please do send in a grianghraf.  I’m sure we’d all love to see it.  SGF — Róislín


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